CINCINNATI — Nobody on the current Villanova roster had even been born the last time the Wildcats stood alone atop the Big East.
The 32-year drought ended Thursday night when Darrun Hilliard scored 19 points and No. 6 Villanova clinched the outright Big East championship for the first time since the 1981-82 season by holding off undermanned Xavier 77-70.
The Wildcats, playing before a hostile standing-room only crowd of 10,340 in their first visit to Cintas Center, overcame a determined Musketeers team in what Villanova coach Jay Wright described as a “great, intense college basketball environment.”
“You’re not going to win championships unless you win on the road,” Wright said. “We have great respect for this league. To win this league is a hell of an accomplishment.”
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JayVaughn Pinkston scored 15 points — eight in the last 3:20 — James Bell finished with 12 and Ryan Arcidiacono chipped in 11 as the Wildcats (27-3, 15-2 Big East) extended their school record for regular-season wins with their fifth straight and 11th in their last 12 games.
They also clinched the top seed in the Big East tournament, which starts Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
• A UC Santa Barbara basketball fan ran on the court and confronted Hawaii coach Gib Arnold during the Big West Conference game. The fan stormed the court while Arnold was arguing with the referees after Hawaii’s Brandon Spearman was called for an intentional foul.
Hawaii forward Christian Standhardinger pushed the man away from Arnold. Teammate Garrett Nevels also shoved away the fan, who gestured for the players to come after him as he backpedaled off the court.
• South Carolina coach Frank Martin was suspended one game for harsh language aimed at his players during a loss to No. 1 Florida and won’t be with the team when it plays at Mississippi State on Saturday.
• Tyler Harvey had 22 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to lead host Eastern Washington (15-15, 10-9 Big Sky) to a 77-69 victory over Idaho State (11-17, 8-11).